December 17, 2015

Learning and Doing with Activist Artist Pia Brar '16

posted by Swearer Center
"What I personally find is the most effective and successful way to reach out to communities and to actually speak to those in power is through art because it accesses the heart and the mind."

For Pia Brar ‘16, art is a powerful activist tool. From Italy to Ecuador, Providence to India, she is on a journey to explore, expose, and wield this power to celebrate the work people are doing in their own communities to make social change.

This audio and photo story is part of "Learning and Doing" - a series on engaged scholarship at Brown University that tells the stories of faculty and students partnering with the community to advance scholarship and benefit the world beyond Brown.

  • Inspired to use documentary film-making and photography to explore and share art activist movements, Pia has traveled across the globe collecting stories.
  • In Florence, Italy, Pia made her first documentary film, Hand in Hand. The film follows a 72 year old British nun who lives in a Swiss cemetery and has dedicated her life to supporting the Roma community of the city.
  • In Ecuador, Pia worked with Actuality Media to create a documentary film for the NGO Asylum Access Asylum Access, which engages in global advocacy to transform the human rights landscape for refugees in first countries of refuge. The film follows the story of an Afro-Colombian refugee living in Quito.
  • In her home country of India, Pia has worked in semi-rural villages with the education NGO Pratham, which works to improve the quality of education in India while ensuring all children are in school and thriving, as well as a number of other education initiatives.
  • She is now working on a documentary film following the work of artist activists in India, such as feminist artist collective "Periods" in Kolkata.
  • "What I personally find is the most effective and successful way to reach out to communities and to actually speak to the politicians, those in power, is through art because it accesses the heart and the mind. It puts emotion back into statistics. It really shows how a policy is affecting the people and learning about how artists are targeted is interesting to me because it really grinds it into my head that artists do have a power that has been silenced. And if we cultivate that power what potential can we have as a society?"

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